I’ve been doing Tai Chi for a little more than three years now; time for another progress report, I guess? If for no other reason than I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress over the last three or so months.

There are lots of forms to learn: I’ve been studying the first Laojia form since the beginning of classes, I’ve been studying the second Laojia form and the first Xinjia form for about a year, I’ve gone through two different Dao (broadsword) forms, one Jian (straight sword) form, and I’m in the middle of a spear form. And I’ll start a staff form next month, and there are at least two other weapon forms that my teacher regularly teaches, and a few more weaponless forms that he teaches sometimes.

The funny thing is that, as I get better, I want to spend less of my time on all those different forms. Or, if not less time in the absolute, less time as a proportion of my growing amount of practice time. Because I feel that, out of all of those, I’m getting the most out of the first Laojia form; and, as I noted last month, I’m getting quite a lot out of the Silk-Reeling Exercises, which focus more on individual parts of the body. Though those two reinforce each other: everything that I wrote there about something to pay attention to during the Silk-Reeling Exercises is something I can pay attention to while doing the first form as well.


And that’s the way in which Tai Chi is being so interesting to me right now: paying attention these isolated, more fundamental concepts in the context of my body’s movements and behaviors. It’s feeling like every couple of months I’m seeing some new aspect that I should be paying attention to while going through the first form, and when I do that, it usually feels like it’s unlocking something.

One thing I’m curious about is how much of what it’s unlocking is perceptual and how much corresponds to physical changes. For example, I’m a lot more aware of movements inside my abdomen as I go through the first form; to what extent were those movements always there but I was just unaware of them, and to what extent is my body changing in ways that significantly alters its internal movements? Presumably the answer is “both”, but it’s hard to say: I’m more sure that my perception is changing than I am of how my body is internally changing, and the former is basically the only way that I have of getting information about the latter.


So I’m doing more practice and more repeated practice. I’m still not managing to find time to go through the whole form every day, but there are a couple of isolated exercises that I’m doing every day, to work on my Dantian and my thighs / Kua. And, these days, when I do practice the form outside of class on Sundays, I go through it six times in a row; I’d been doing it three times in a row, which honestly didn’t feel all that different from doing it once, but when I tried going longer, I had a few experiences where all of a sudden my natural internal rhythm for the form shifted.

Which is a useful reminder for me: often, when I’m learning something, I do it persistently and thoughtfully but in small chunks. And, honestly, that’s mostly the attitude that I’ve been taking with Tai Chi. But, unsurprisingly, it is the case that if I practice more (but still thoughtfully) then I’ll make progress faster; and I’m getting some evidence (from doing the form six times in a row, from doing Dantian Rotations daily) that doing something more can lead to a difference that feels qualitative rather than just quantitative.


So I guess I should step up my practice? Fortunately, besides continuing to be interesting, practicing is starting to be actively pleasant; I assume this is endorphins kicking in? And doing all of this is helping me feel better, or at least a little different, during the my non-practice time: e.g. if I open my Kua while standing / walking (basically spreading / relaxing the top of my legs a bit) then I get a sort of strange feeling of energy connecting my abdomen through to my thighs, which seems like a good thing.

There is the question of when that practice would be, though: I don’t really have large chunks of my weekdays that I’m not using for other stuff. And, for that matter, what to practice: should I go through the form more, should I do the Silk-Reeling Exercise set more, should I do isolated exercises more, should I do Qigong more?

That latter one is something I’m starting to seriously consider upping up: I’m curious what’s going on inside of my body, and how to interpret and nurture these feelings of energy in different places in my body, and Qigong provides one analytical framework with which to approach that. And I recently ran into an author who seems to have some interesting things to say on the subject, which is helping me move past the Qigong I’ve seen in the intro Tai Chi course.

So now I’m trying out some of the exercises from his introductory book, and I’m hoping to take a seminar of his in the Spring; we’ll see if I managed to do so and, if so, how that turns out. Though I imagine that the center of my practice will remain Tai Chi: I know I’m getting something out of that, I have a local teacher who I think is excellent, and I like my community of fellow students.


It’s been an interesting three years and a bit; I look forward to years to come.

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